A Foundation Built 30-Years Ago Today – August 22, 1986

Posted in Core Values with tags , , , , , , on August 21, 2016 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

Seal of RTC Great Lakes.pngKnown as The Quarterdeck of the Navy, Great Lakes Naval Training Center, in Waukegan, Illinois, is the Navy’s only basic training facility.  Affectionately called Great Mistakes[i] by many who have passed through its gates, Recruit Training Command (RTC) is where recruits begin their Navy experience.  They learn about naval history; become aware of a sailor’s standards of conduct and rights & responsibilities; become physically and fundamentally strong in the lifestyle of a sailor.  After this indoctrination, they’re ready for service as the Navy’s newest Blue Jackets.

It was the middle of June, 1986.  I had just arrived to RTC Great Lakes for basic training.  I was anxious and nervous; excited, yet uncertain.  So many thoughts were swirling in my mind.  After all, it’s a big step for a 17-year-old to take; exiting the safe bounds of home and community into the rigid uniformity and discipline of a military institution.

Navy boot camp is a basic naval orientation designed to transform men and women into smartly disciplined, physically fit, basically trained sailors.[ii]  As soon as one arrives, they are integrated into a diverse group of individuals with whom they will eat, sleep, learn, grow and support as a team until graduation day.  Teamwork is the foremost skill developed during these eight trying weeks.  The recruit company’s chain of command is quickly established, and the ship is underway.  Boot camp provides the opportunity to develop and refine leadership skills that will become vital in the fleet.

Although I felt ready to get it all started, I had to wait a few more days before starting my eight weeks of training; something about making sure I was healthy and fit for the rigors of Navy training.  For the first few days after arriving, we marching back and forth from RTC to Main Side for medical and administrative in-processing.  As I recall, it was more like determining how many holes I can withstand being punctured into my arm and buttocks.  It was also when I received my initial issuance of uniforms, and a clean-shaved head.  This week is known as Processing Week.  We called them P-Days; days that didn’t count towards the eight weeks of training.  Time just seemed to stop.

It rained during those first few days.  It seemed like the rain would never end.  Cold.  Damp.  Dreary.  Miserable.  Amidst the proverbial ‘hurry-up and wait,’ I was eager for the ‘hurry-up’ part to begin.  These early days at boot camp have become some of the more memorable days in my life.  I look back on them fondly.  They were, after all, the days that began to set the foundation for the rest of my life and career.

Today, August 22, marks the 30th anniversary of my graduation from boot camp.  I often reflect on those days, those experiences, those friends (shipmates).  I recall the challenges that strengthened me physically and mentally; trials that built character within me.  I cherish the rewards of achievement and success that came from every push-up, inspection and exam.  Although there were those times where it didn’t seem possible to finish, everything somehow came together.  Somehow our recruit company came together.  And, on August 22, 1986, we assembled to celebrate our collective accomplishments in our pass-in-review ceremony at graduation.

In those short eight weeks, some of the most valuable traits and qualities were instilled in me.  Honor, courage, and commitment, the core values of the United States Navy, were the bedrock principles of my training.

The Core Values of the United States Navy

Honor: When we say “bear true faith and allegiance,” we are promising to:

  • Conduct ourselves in the highest ethical manner in all relationships
  • Deal honestly and truthfully with others
  • Make honest recommendations and accept those junior to us
  • Encourage new ideas and deliver the bad news, even when it is unpopular
  • Abide by an uncompromising code of integrity, taking responsibility for our actions and keeping our word
  • Fulfill or exceed our legal and ethical responsibilities in our public and personal lives 24 hours a day
  • Be mindful of the privilege to serve our fellow Americans

Courage: When we say “support and defend,” we are promising to:

  • Meet the demands of our profession and the mission when it is hazardous, demanding or otherwise difficult
  • Make decisions in the best interest of the Navy and the nation, without regard to personal consequences
  • Meet all challenges while adhering to a higher standard of personal conduct and decency
  • Be loyal to our nation, ensuring the resources entrusted to us are used in an honest, careful and efficient way
  • Have the moral and mental strength to do what is right, even in the face of personal or professional adversity

Commitment: When we say “obey the orders,” we are promising to:

  • Demand respect up and down the chain of command
  • Care for the safety, professional, personal, and spiritual well-being of the people entrusted to us
  • Show respect toward all people without regard to race, religion or gender
  • Treat each individual with human dignity
  • Be committed to positive change and constant improvement
  • Exhibit the highest degree of moral character, technical excellence, quality, and competence in what we have been trained to do
  • Work together as a team to improve the quality of our work, our people, andourselves[iii]

The Navy’s core values became the ingredients that transformed me into a sailor, and ultimately the cornerstones of my life and career.  My boot camp and Navy experience culminated in my having the following three valuable attributes:

  1. Highly motivated to overcome all challenges; having the self-discipline to achieve all tasks completely and successfully.
  2. Attention to detail, and being detail-oriented.  Following direction and learning to listen, while having situational awareness at all times.
  3. Pride and professionalism.  To always showcase respect for people and resources.  To carry myself with honor, and to have integrity in all that I do.  And, to always be committed to the team, organization and community I belong.

August 22 is a very important date in my life.  Similar to my birthday, it signifies the day that officially began my Navy career.  It is a day that I am extremely proud of, and I wanted to share it with you.

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[i]  Webb, Brandon; David Mann, John (2012). The Red Circle. Macmillan. p. 81. ISBN 978-1-250-01840-3. “… Naval Station Great Lakes (or unofficially, Great Mistakes)”

[ii]  “Recruit Training Command – Mission.” Recruit Training Command – Mission. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Aug. 2016. http://www.bootcamp.navy.mil/mission.html

[iii]  “Navy Boot Camp Timeline At a Glance.” Military.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Aug. 2016. http://www.military.com/join-armed-forces/navy-boot-camp-schedule.html

Top Gun – Still Flying High after 30 Years

Posted in Current Affairs, Leadership, Naval Leadership with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 12, 2016 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

 

I was 17-years-old and a junior in high school in the first half of 1986. The United States was at the height of the Cold War.  President Ronald Reagan’s strategic plan to improve the capabilities of naval forces, known as the 600-ship Navy, was gaining momentum.  And, the nation came together to mourn the loss of Space Shuttle Challenger, mission STS-51-L, as its crew of 7 astronauts perished, including schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe.  Being proud to be an American in the strongest, most spirited nation in the world was common back then.

During that same time, while most of my classmates were taking SAT’s and planning their future, I was taking the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB); the test used to determine qualification for enlistment in the United States Armed Forces.  Influenced by my uncle, Thomas Aulenbach, a 1963 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, my ambition was to join the United States Navy.

It was a deep sense of pride, and a desire to be part of something greater than myself, that drove me to make the best and most important decision of my life; to join the world’s greatest navy, and to reach out to live my dreams.  I entered into a Naval Reserve program known as The Naval Reserve Sea Air Mariner Program (SAM).  This program allowed me to be one of very few to ever join the Navy in my junior year of high school, go to basic training in the summer after my junior year, then drill one weekend a month at a local Naval Reserve center during my senior year of high school.

There were a few other things that further stoked my pride and ambitions to join the Navy back in those days.  I remember sitting in my recruiter’s office hearing Lee Greenwood’s ‘God Bless the USA,’ which was rapidly becoming the country’s unofficial national anthem.  It seemed like it was playing on repeat, ringing in my ears over and over again.  Or, maybe it was just a clever recruiting tactic; one that was working.  I still get an overwhelming emotional feeling each time I hear it; no different from hearing any other patriotic tune.  To this day, that song remains near the top of my list of all-time favorites.

One month before I left for boot camp, on May 16, 1986, the iconic movie, Top Gun, opened in theaters.  Starring Tom Cruise, playing the role of Lieutenant Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell, Top Gun would become one of the most endearing military movies of all time.  From its opening scene (may I opine: The best opening scene to a movie ever!), to it victorious ending, this movie is jam-packed with great action and music.

Top Gun is about the former United States Navy Fighter Weapons School, at what was then called Naval Air Station Miramar, located north of San Diego, California; Fightertown U.S.A.  The film glamorizes the life of naval aviators by portraying them as cocky, highly competitive hotshots driven to be the best of the best among all Navy fighter pilots.

* Naval Air Station (NAS) Miramar is now known as Marine Corps Air Station Miramar (MCAS Miramar). The United States Navy Fighter Weapons School (Top Gun) was merged into the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center at NAS Fallon, Nevada, and is now known as the United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor Program (SFTI program). The program is intended to teach fighter and strike tactics and techniques to selected Naval Aviators and Naval Flight Officers who return to their operating units as surrogate instructors.

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Related Content:  Top Gun 30 Years Ago via The Sextant (U.S. Navy History)

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Have Some Fun:

Which ‘Top Gun’ Character Are You?

Quiz #1          Quiz #2          Quiz #3          Quiz #4

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Call Sign Generator

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Top Gun puts viewers into the cockpit of an F-14 Tomcat for the thrill and adrenaline rush of flying one of the Navy’s most maneuverable fighter jets.  The film has had a cult following in its 30 years since it’s release, and continues to motivate anyone who has been in or around the Navy, particularly those who aspire to become fighter pilots.  Last year, it was added to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry, joining only 675 other films for that designation.

The movie’s music, with songs on the original soundtrack like Danger Zone (Kenny Loggins), Take My Breath Away (Berlin), Mighty Wings (Cheap Trick), and other songs featured in famous scenes, such as Great Balls of Fire and You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin, remain as timeless as the movie itself.  When they’re played on the radio, there’s no question that they came from Top Gun.

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Related Content:  Top Gun at 30: A Retrospective from Two Naval Aviators via War on the Rocks

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The Pentagon Goes Hollywood

It was the Navy’s cooperation that put the planes in the picture. The producers paid the military $1.8 million for the use of Miramar Naval Air Station, as well as four aircraft carriers, about two dozen F-14 Tomcats, and a few F-5 Tigers and A-4 Skyhawks; some flown by real-life top-gun pilots.  The dogfight scenes were carefully choreographed by experienced military pilots, and a some of the movies most memorable scenes were meticulously researched for their realism and authenticity.  The movie’s Navy and Hollywood connection made real history.

Then, there are those scenes that would just never happen.  For example, Maverick’s tower fly-by (aka buzzing the tower).  This became the symbolic statement by Maverick of his commitment to being a, well, maverick.  But, doing this is not recommended.  You’ll lose your wings, get a boot permanently stuck up your posterior, and you’ll certainly find yourself flying a desk until your court-martial.  So, the answer will ALWAYS be, “negative ghost rider, the pattern is full.”

Soon after the movie came out, there was a boost in Navy recruitment.  Although Pentagon regulations prohibited the Navy from promoting the movie in its recruitment efforts, Navy recruiters could be found setting up recruiting tables in many of the theaters where the movie was being shown.  In 1987, the Navy cleverly released a Top Gun-themed recruitment commercial with “Danger Zone”-sounding music to continue the successful recruiting trend.

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In addition to its excellent music and its action-packed scenes, the movie’s dialogue is immortal.  Comical, hard-hitting and full of power and meaning, Top Gun is full of unforgettable lines, like these:

Son, your ego is writing checks your body can’t cash.” ~ Captain Tom “Stinger” Jordan

“Top Gun rules of engagement are written for your safety and for that of your team.  They are not flexible, nor am I” ~ CDR Mike “Viper” Metcalf (Commander, U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School – Top Gun)

“A good pilot is compelled to evaluate what’s happened, so he can apply what he’s learned” ~ Viper

These, and many other lines, certainly capture the strict discipline and protocol that you would expect from the military.  And, then there are lines that you might use at work just to annoy your co-workers, such as the infamous, “I feel the need … the need for speed.”  Or, there are lines like the ones listed below that are suited for everyday use and have particular meaning (click on image to be taken to larger image via its web link ):

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*Courtesy: The Further Adventures of Doctrine Man (Facebook), aka Doctrine Man (Twitter)*

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Out of the movie also comes leadership wisdom.  Top Gun is referenced often when discussing leadership and team dynamics; a sort of leadership ethos.  This was extensively explored by Bob Jennings and J. Israel Thompson in a series of posts that were written as fictional “interviews” with key characters from the movie.  Links to each of those posts are listed below:

Often in the movie, however, there are those times when a butt-chewing was necessaryThe fine art of delivering corrective action is sometimes garnished with some colorful language.  As the movie evolves, you notice Viper’s style becomes the textbook example of how to deliver negative feedback.  There is, obviously, a right way and a wrong way.

‘Top Gun’ still soars at 30, while shooting for that sequel, which will again star Tom Cruise.  And, although the F-14 Tomcat is no longer part of the Navy’s arsenal, and pilots are becoming more like gamers sitting in sophisticated theater-like consoles flying drones (unmanned aerial vehicles), no one has lost that loving feeling for Top Gun.  It’s popularity continues to fly high after 30 years.  For some of us, it will never get old.  In fact, Top Gun Day is celebrated every year on May 13th.  Why do they celebrate it on that day, when the movie was released on May 16?  Good question.  Here is your answer.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to see the movie, I highly recommend it.  If you have, I would be surprised if you don’t feel the same way I do every time it comes on television, or when Kenny Loggins comes on the radio with “Danger Zone.”  It’s a movie where the pilots and the viewer are both on the edge of their seat experiencing the exhilaration of life as a naval aviator.  One thing is certain, the movie puts into perspective our need to call the ball; to know, and be absolutely certain, that we are on the correct approach path to catching the wire in life, career, business, etc.  If we are gliding off the path, we need to know how to correct our approach.  This is the lesson … the moral of the story … that Top Gun provides.

 

 

Character is Crumbling in Leadership

Posted in Core Values, Leadership with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 15, 2016 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

In military and civilian academic institutions around the world, above and beyond their core curriculum, character is taught and inspired.  In each of the military academies in the United States, as well as college Reserve Officers’ Training Corps programs, the purpose and responsibility is to produce leaders of character.  To accomplish this, they incorporate the values of integrity, respect, responsibility, compassion, and gratitude into the daily life of cadets and midshipmen who aspire to become tomorrow’s leaders.

The U.S. Naval Academy’s mission, for example, is to develop midshipmen morally, mentally, and physically and to imbue them with the highest ideals of duty, honor, and loyalty.  They provide graduates who are dedicated to a career of naval service and have potential for future development in mind and character to assume the highest responsibilities of command, citizenship and government.[i]  The Naval Academy has a deep and abiding commitment to the moral development of its midshipmen and to instilling the naval service core values of honor, courage, and commitment.[ii]

At the U.S. Military Academy at West Point character development strategy promotes living honorably and building trust.  West Point believes that their approach not only develops character, but modifies behavior over the course of the 47-month cadet experience.  Ultimately, the desire is for cadets and rotating faculty members to depart West Point with the character, competence, and commitment to build and lead resilient teams that thrive in complex security environments.  Most importantly, everyone commits to living honorably and building trust, on and off duty.[iii]

The Cadet Honor Code at West Point:

A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.[iv]

Recommended Reading: Duty, Honor, Country

The U.S. Air Force Academy has the Center for Character and Leadership development, where they advance the understanding, practice, and integration of character and leadership development as a catalyst for achieving the academy’s highest purpose, while also preparing the cadets for service to the nation in the profession of arms.[v]  I think the Air Force Academy has it absolutely correct when they say that there has never been a more critical time to increase understanding of how moral and ethical dimensions interact with the complexities of leadership – not only in the military context, but across many fields of human endeavor.[vi]

The demonstration of moral and ethical attributes are essential for effective leadership as a commissioned officer in the U.S. military.

Those who possess leadership characteristics seek to discover the truth, decides what is right, and demonstrates the courage to act accordingly – always.[vii]  Officers in the military are to epitomize humility, self-effacement, and selfless service.  So, at the basic and academic level, before the bars are pinned onto a newly commissioned officer, candidates are taught the importance of equality, dignity, and respect.[viii]

Aside from all of these foundations for character development from which scholars transition into professionals in varying fields of expertise and responsibility, it seems that the façade of character in today’s military is crumbling.

Recommended Reading: Defining Military Character

The Moral Compass is Broken

In 2015, just in the U.S. Navy alone, there were twenty commanding officers, four executive officers, and eight senior enlisted firings.  In one of last year’s cases, the commanding officer of the Norfolk-based USS Anzio propositioned a subordinate for sex in exchange for career advancement during a “wetting down”[ix] party at a nearby bar.  There was heavy drinking and inappropriate fraternization that evening, followed the next day by an encounter in the commanding officer’s cabin.

The list for 2016 is already growing.  From the firing of top leaders of a U.S. Navy destroyer for allowing fireworks and gambling on their ship, to a Navy officer being accused of spying, it appears that the moral compass for these leaders has broken.

Related: Relieved of Command

How can it be that the moral compass for these leaders has broken?  Why have they ventured off course so far that they ruin their careers, tarnish the branch of service they belong, and betray those who have, up to that point, trusted them with precious people, equipment, and resources?  Has leading by example become so difficult in today’s complex military environment that doing the right thing has become challenging?

In an article on the Military Times website, Andrew Tilghman reported that the Pentagon’s force-wide look at misconduct among senior military officers, and the efforts to prevent it, found that the Navy and Air Force lag behind in professionalism, while the Army and the Marine Corps have a very mature profession of arms.  Rear Admiral Margaret “Peg” Klein, the defense secretary’s senior advisor for military professionalism, attributes the Army and Marine Corps’ success to sending junior officers into leadership positions, and their professional identity is learned very early in their careers, where they quickly learn the importance of trust, humility, integrity, and empathy.

Not only are officers and non-commissioned officer’s responsible for upholding their own ethical behavior, they are responsible for instilling morals in their subordinates.

It seems the ‘do as I say, not as I do’ mentality is a growing epidemic throughout the ranks.  Maybe it’s time for the Pentagon to conduct an ethics stand down to reach every service member from four-star rank down to the recruit in basic training, similar to what the Marine Corps did a few years ago, to emphasize code of conduct and core values.  But, will that really begin the process to reduce and eliminate the problem?

Retired Army colonel, David S. Maxwell, Associate Director for Security Studies at Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, in an article about the growing concern over top military officers’ ethics, was quoted saying, “Faced with stress, and a very complex combat environment, people make mistakes.”  Andrew Bacevich, professor emeritus of international relations and history at Boston University, in an article asking if recent ethics and sex scandals undermine integrity of the officer corps, said “The truth is just because people are wearing stars, doesn’t mean they are immune from human frailties.”  Are these legitimate reasons for these ethical lapses in judgement, or merely excuses?

Character is the foundation upon which all leadership traits are built.

Moral and ethical behavior is truly where one’s leadership becomes the bedrock of who we are as individuals, and as leaders.  Its strength comes from the fortitude to always do our best, and to always do what is right, no matter what may lure us away from making the right decision.  The four cornerstones of this foundation are the values of integrity, respect, responsibility and professionalism.  Or, to use a different and more common metaphor, these become the four points on the moral compass.  They are the core values of a leader that lead to uprightness and success.

No matter what our challenges happen to be, either driven by stress or human urges, we must strive to reach deep within ourselves to overcome the temptation to make poor decisions; no matter if we are in uniform downrange, or in daily life with our family or friends.  Our country, society, superiors, peers, subordinates, family, and friends are relying on our steady and consistent moral courage to translate into professional decorum and behavior; always.

Many respected military leaders of the past espoused the vitally important qualities of a leader.  Lieutenant General John A. Lejeune, the 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps said, “Leadership is the sum of those qualities of intellect, human understanding, and moral character that enables a person to inspire and control a group of people successfully.”  Among General Douglas MacArthur’s 17 Principles of Leadership, which essentially acts as a leader’s self-assessment questionnaire, there is this question: “Am I a constant example to my subordinates in character, dress, deportment and courtesy?”[x]

An excerpt from the West Point Cadet Prayer reads, “Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, and never to be content with a half-truth when the whole truth can be won.  Endow us with the courage that is born of loyalty to all that is noble and worthy, that scorns to compromise with vice and injustice and knows no fear when truth and right are in jeopardy.”[xi]

The trailhead to success was clearly identified to us early in our lives and careers.  Ultimately, it became our responsibility to continue to travel along a wholesome path.  But, at some point in our lives, we find ourselves at the intersection of human-nature and temptation, faced with the challenge to make the right decision.  When this happens to you, which way will you go?  Will your moral compass point you in the right direction?  Is the foundation of your character strong enough to stand firm?  Or, will your character crumble to the ground?  What will your leadership legacy be?  Lessons learned through life’s experiences, as well as the awareness and attentiveness to your surroundings, should always provide you the sense of direction necessary to make the right decision.  You must have courage, faith and confidence that your moral compass will point you in the right direction; the path toward the intersection of character and integrity.  If your ultimate destination is success and victory, follow your moral compass.[xii]

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Notes:

[i] U.S. Naval Academy. Mission of USNA. Web. Accessed 15 Apr. 2016. http://www.usna.edu/About/mission.php.

[ii] U.S. Naval Academy. Character Development. Web. Accessed 15 Apr. 2016. http://www.usna.edu/Admissions/Military-Preparation/Character-Development.php.

[iii] The William E. Simon Center for the Professional Military Ethic. “Character Development Strategy – Live Honorably and Build Trust.” Letter by Robert L. Caslen, Jr., Lieutenant General, U.S. Army, Superintendent, United States Military Academy: Page 3. Dec. 2014. Web. Accessed 15 Apr. 2016. http://www.usma.edu/strategic/shared documents/west point’s character development strategy(digital-2-4-15).pdf.

[iv] “The Simon Center for the Professional Military Ethic – Honor.” The Simon Center for the Professional Military Ethic – Honor. Web. Accessed 17 Apr. 2016.  http://www.usma.edu/scpme/sitepages/honor.aspx

[v] “Center for Character & Leadership Development Homepage.” Center for Character & Leadership Development Homepage. U.S. Air Force Academy. Web. Accessed 15 Apr. 2016. http://www.usafa.edu/Commandant/cwc/.

[vi] U.S. Air Force Academy, Journal of Character & Leadership Integration (JCLI). Center for Character Development – Publications Archive. Web. Accessed 15 Apr. 2016. http://www.usafa.edu/Commandant/cwc/cwcs/docs/cwcsPub_Archive.cfm.

[vii] “Building Capacity to Lead – The West Point System for Leader Development.” Officership & Perspective: Our Targets for Leader Development | Leader of Character: Page 18. United States Military Academy. Web. Accessed 15 Apr. 2016. http://www.usma.edu/strategic/siteassets/sitepages/home/building the capacity to lead.pdf.

[viii] Wilson, Dale R. “Schofield’s Definition of Discipline.” Command Performance Leadership. Command Performance Leadership, 23 Feb. 2012. Web. Accessed 15 Apr. 2016. https://commandperformanceleadership.wordpress.com/2012/02/23/schofields-definition-of-discipline/.

[ix] A ‘Wetting Down’ is a ceremony or event held congratulating a newly promoted officer.  More information can be found here:  “Social Customs & Traditions of the Sea Services.” Functions & Traditions – Wetting-Down Parties: page 14. Naval Services FamilyLine. Web. Accessed 15 Apr. 2016. htttp://www.goatlocker.org/resources/cpo/downloads/customs.pdf

[x] Donnithorne, Larry. The West Point Way of Leadership: From Learning Principled Leadership to Practicing it. New York: Currency Doubleday, 1993. pp. 178-179. Print.

[xi] Cadet Prayer. Office of Chaplains. Web. Accessed 15 Apr. 2016. http://www.usma.edu/chaplain/SitePages/Cadet Prayer.aspx.

[xii] Adapted from “Pithy Points to Ponder (A Leader’s Moral Compass),” by Dale R. Wilson on the blog Command Performance Leadership. 14 Nov. 2012. Web. Accessed 15 Apr. 2016. Edited and adapted for this publication. https://commandperformanceleadership.wordpress.com/2012/11/14/pithy-points-to-ponder-a-leaders-moral-compass/.

Remembering The Fallen – Memorial Day 2015

Posted in Miscellaneous with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 25, 2015 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

The following post was originally written and posted on this blog for Memorial Day 2012.  As I considered a post for this Memorial Day, I realized that I could not come up with a better message than this that captures the true essence of my feelings for this solemn day.  Today, we must pause, reflect, honor and appreciate the true sacrifice of our fallen soldiers, sailors and airman.  Those who have gone before deserve nothing less than our deepest gratitude; today, always, and forever.

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Throughout our Nation’s history, ordinary men and women have left the safe bounds of their normal lives to set out to do extraordinary deeds.  These sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers departed their families and the comforts of home to join something greater than themselves, in a noble tradition of patriotism and pride for the purpose of fighting to protect our way of life.

While most are being handed a burger or hot dog off the grill to enjoy on this solemn holiday, somewhere there is a family being handed a folded American flag being told, “On behalf of a grateful nation…”  While many in this Country are celebrating the homecoming of their college friends and family after a long year of study, there will be no homecoming for some who have fought and died in our Country’s battles.  They sacrificed their own homecoming so that others would still have theirs.  These are true heroes, and we owe them much more than one day of solemn remembrance and reverence.

Memorial Day 2015 Facebook.jpgOn this Memorial Day, one of our Nation’s most solemn and revered holidays, we all pause to reflect upon the principles that have made our Nation great.  We pause to remember the true cost of freedom and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice.  The brave men and women we honor today selflessly gave of themselves to defend a way of life that we all cherish: NEVER FORGET!

Related Content –

Memorial Day History (via usmemorialday.org)

History.com Memorial Day (via The History Channel)

A Memorial Day Message From The VFW (via vfw.org)

Memorial Day – A Pause To Remember (via generalleadership.com)

The True Meaning of Memorial Day (via The Bridge on medium.com)

Reflections on Memorial Day – Past and Present (via The Bridge on medium.com)

Photo Credit:

Memorial Day 2015 Best Soldiers Quotes, Sayings & Images (via http://www.fathersdayrock.com/, accessed 25 May 2015)

This Memorial Day, Pause To Remember (also linked here: http://ow.ly/i/aUfK5/original (via http://www.vfw.org/, accessed 25 May 2015)

Plan For Failure

Posted in Leadership with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 14, 2015 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

“I don’t lose any sleep at night over the potential for failure. I cannot even spell the word.”

General James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis

We all strive for victory.  Each one of us hates to lose.  After all, it is essential for us to succeed in our daily lives.  We are obviously not living life to fail.  But, fail we will.

As important as it is to plan for victory, it is just as important to plan for failure.  Every ‘battle plan’ should consider all contingencies.  But, victory, of course, hangs on the details, and behind those details are hidden the pitfalls that can spell disaster and defeat.  We often take our eye off the potential negatives and ultimately find ourselves facing the unexpected.  This can easily be avoided.

Last week, we again saw another data breach hitting Anthem Blue Cross.  And, again, many experts are saying that this ‘disastrous’ data breach was avoidable.  When I first heard about it, my first thought was how something like this could happen again.  Haven’t these major organizations learned from other data breaches, such as to Michaels Stores, Home Depot, Kmart and ebay?  Aren’t major corporations taking steps to prevent these kinds of disasters from happening to them?  I can understand maybe not recognizing the unknown, but I cannot accept these companies blatantly ignoring what is going on around them, and to their peers in various corporate circles.  Again, planning for failure is just as important as planning for success.

In a recent blog post on The Military Leader, entitled 5 Questions That Can Save You From Disaster, author Drew Steadman discusses how failure can be avoided by not getting caught off guard by things that could have been anticipated.  As he states in his article, “A few moments of reflection can cue you in to the key indicators. And asking hard questions will force you and your team to acknowledge the situation you face.”  But, what I take away from Drew’s article is that you cannot wait for things to happen, or circumstances to change, before putting into place a plan that could work to avoid failure.  It is important to be quite aware of the peripheral things, because failure or victory are contingent on how (or if) you recognize and react to them.

One thing that I am certain of is that there will be a lot of uncertainty when planning for any outcome.  In essence, failures and miscues can be avoided by taking action based on our anticipation of the known’s and the unknowns.  And, doesn’t that sound familiar:

Recommended Reading: “The Certainty of Donald Rumsfeld

Part 1: Three Reporters

Part 2: The Known and the Unknown

Part 3: A Failure of Imagination

Part 4: Absence of Evidence Isn’t Evidence of Absence

As my youngest daughter, Kassandra, when she hears something so profound, says, “what does that even mean?”  When Donald Rumsfeld first uttered this statement during a press breifing in February 2002 about the lack of evidence linking the government of Iraq with the supply of weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups, he was making a point that there are various levels of certainty and uncertainty based on our knowledge of the facts as we know them, and the facts that aren’t yet clear. [View video of Donald Rumsfeld’s comments HERE]

To better define this, I found an article on SmartOrg by Don Creswell that defined the 3 Basic Sources of Risk and Uncertainty, which came out of a presentation by Kelvin Stott.

My take:

  • We must remain cognizant of those things that we know, while not discounting the possibilities that we think aren’t likely to happen.
  • We need to open more widely the avenues of communication, encouraging everyone to say something if they know something; share knowledge.  Nobody can assume the other knows what they know, nor can they think the information isn’t important.
  • Be Inquisitive and curious.  Ask questions and challenge the status quo.
  • We need to use our imagination, as well as look at the intelligence that is available, to make the best decision possible at the time.

Bottom line: Think outside the box, and don’t ignore the obvious.

“Failure is in a sense the highway to success, as each discovery of what is false leads us to seek earnestly after what is true.”

John Keats (1795-1821) British Poet

In the military, disasters could be due to bad planning, bad execution, bad weather, general lack of skill or ability, the failure of a new piece of military technology, a major blunder, a brilliant move on the part of the enemy, or simply the unexpected presence of an overwhelming enemy force.  But, what bothers me is when defeat and failure occur as a result of a known and preventable cause.  There are many military disasters throughout history that you can spend hours researching and realizing that they could have been avoided.

Recommended Reading: The Five Biggest Disasters in American Military History

I’m not suggesting that we are always going to be perfect.  What I am saying is that paying attention to certain details can make the difference between success and failure.  Being aware and prepared, innovative and imaginative, proactive and intuitive, can all make a big difference.

“When defeat comes, accept it as a signal that your plans are not sound, rebuild those plans, and set sail once more toward your coveted goal.”

Napoleon Hill (1883-1970) American speaker and motivational writer

As you look around at the people and organizations who are facing critical issues, problems, and crisis,[i] you should view those situations as instructive and constructive. They should, for you, act as lessons learned.[ii]  We can learn as much from other people’s failures, as we can from our own.  Try to recognize what took that person or organization into the direction of failure, and plan to do the things necessary to avoid them happening to you or your organization.

Don’t be smug thinking that these things cannot happen to you, or that they are rare or isolated incidents.[iii]  And, don’t be arrogant in the thought that these things can’t happen to you … Or, that ‘things just happen.’[iv]  Don’t let things happen because you failed to prepare, or you grew over-confident with success. Plan for failure.[v]  Don’t fall to complacency or laziness.

Twitter Share Button

_______________________________________________________________________________________________
Inspired by five consecutive Tweets (#5Star #5Tweet) I posted on Friday, February 13, 2015:
[i]     Tweet 1 of 5
[ii]    Tweet 2 of 5
[iii]   Tweet 3 of 5
[iv]   Tweet 4 of 5
[v]    Tweet 5 of 5
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Sources:

Resolutions That Are Fundamentally Strong

Posted in Motivation with tags , , , , , , , on January 3, 2015 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

Here we are again; the beginning of a new year, and yet another opportunity to pronounce another proverbial New Year’s Resolution that will make improvements about ourselves.  Most of us decide to take actions that drive us to kick aside bad habits, while others just want to try something new in their lives.  Some people simply add new things to their bucket list that they want to accomplish or experience in the new year.  Whatever the motivation, and no matter the goal, the new year presents new opportunity to accomplish more than we did in the past.

New Year isn’t meant to serve as a catalyst for sweeping character changes. It is a time for people to reflect on their past year’s behavior and promise to make positive lifestyle changes[i].  I am often amazed, this time of year, at how we seem to distinctively draw that line between one year and the next, rather than making these choices and decisions progressively throughout the year and throughout our lives.  As I said in a Tweet on December 26th:

Why are we waiting until next Thursday (January 1, New Year’s Day) to start something new or kick bad habits aside.  Let’s start today. (via @5StarLeadership)

It’s never too late to turn a new page[ii], or to start a new chapter in your book of life.  For others, their goal is to accomplish the goals of 2014 which they should have done in 2013 because they made a promise in 2012 and planned in 2011[iii].  And, there are some people who absolutely resent the notion of making New Year’s resolutions.  For those people, making New Year’s resolutions implies that they need to change.  I guess they think they’re perfect just the way they are[iv]. But, shouldn’t we always be resolving to improve?  Shouldn’t we be building a list of goals and objectives all the time that are fundamentally strong?  Isn’t it important and valuable to aspire to achieve these victories throughout our lives?  If we are in a position to set resolutions to make improvements, or to take definitive action to destroy behaviors that have prevented us from advancing, we are obviously fighting these battles now. As Vala Afshar Tweeted recently:

As you enter the new year, you have 3 decisions:

  1. What will I leave behind?
  2. What will I bring with me?
  3. What can I create that’s new?

First, we must reflect on the lessons you’ve learned along your life’s journey to this point.  We must consider the mistakes we’ve made, particularly with past resolutions.  Maybe they were unrealistic or unattainable.  Maybe we weren’t fully prepared to follow-through with the promise we made with ourselves or others, or there were challenges and setbacks we didn’t anticipate.  When making new resolutions, we should consider our strengths, and be totally honest with ourselves about our weaknesses. Second, we need to answer a few questions before truly deciding what actions we are going to take to achieve victory in 2015.  Just like going into battle, we have to make decisions on what we will need to achieve victory.  What are our priorities?  What resources will we need to effectively and efficiently reach each milestone?  Of the resources we have available, which are the ones that need improvement?  How and where can we blaze new trails to reach new destinations in our lives?

Your success in 2015 will be based on how well you mix the ingredients for achieving victories along the path. (via @5StarLeadership)

Last, our choice of targets (resolutions) should be unselfish.  We must think of those around us when determining what we are going to set out to achieve.  What impact will our choices have on those around us?  Your New Year’s resolution should be as much for those around you as it is for yourself.  Do something that benefits everyone[v]. For those of us who are leaders, making resolutions amounts to creating a vision, then determining a set of action steps to accomplish each task along the road to victory.  The principles, virtues and values that go into these intentions considers many of the same thought processes an individual takes when deciding to improve something in their lives, or to take deliberate action to accomplish something monumental.  No matter if you are a leader of a team or organization, or someone who has important goals to accomplish in their lives, it will be important to establish a clear vision for what you are setting out to achieve. _________________________________________________________________________________________________ 2015 Resolutions For You and Those Around You To Become Fundamentally Strong –

The following can be adapted to fit any person, situation, family, friend, team, company, etc.  Each of the following four initiatives are based on a series of Tweets I posted on New Year’s Day.  After each one listed is a link to the original Tweet:

  1. Inspire greatness among everyone you interact with by creating a positive, engaging environment. (Tweet)
  2. Ensure that you, and everyone around you, are ready to face the challenges ahead, while strengthening the resources you’ll need to ultimately accomplish each and every objective. (Tweet)
  3. Embrace failure as much as you do achievement.  Use every situation as a teaching moment for you and others. Become a student, mentor or coach, as needed. (Tweet)
  4. Take care of yourself physically and mentally to be a stronger person.  And, encourage those around you to do the same.  Build on strengths, tear down weaknesses. (Tweet)

 

 _________________________________________________________________________________________________ Keeping It Real –

Making New Year’s resolutions requires a certain attitude, focus and commitment.  It requires a discipline that is firm and unwavering. Discipline is easy to talk about – but difficult to practice without the right motivation[vi].  And being continuously motivated and inspired to achieve anything in life can be challenging.  Let’s be honest; it’s not easy.  We have too many distractions and negative impulses, as well as constraints on our time.  Some might say that our struggles with resolutions is mind over matter; we don’t mind because it doesn’t matter.  But, you must have a strong desire to succeed and be determined to stick to it. Here are a few keys to success:

  1. Identify a tangible and legitimate resolution that will improve or enhance your life. Make it relevant.
  2. Avoid making one overwhelming and sweeping change.  Smaller, more attainable resolutions will help you reach for whatever you are striving to achieve.
  3. Specify the improvements you want to make, listing their priority of importance and completion.  Then specify the tasks, behaviors, resources and/or requirements that will fulfill every aspect and obligation of the resolution
  4. Recognize and plan for the constraints and challenges that may cause you to fall back or fail.  Prepare yourself mentally and/or physically for those pitfalls, and gain the necessary resources and support mechanisms to overcome them.
  5. Set several milestones with attainable time-bound gates.  Hold yourself to a schedule, and track your progress.
  6. Start with small, attainable goals to start.  It is important to gain confidence in your efforts, and winning a few smaller battles will strengthen your resolve.
  7. Remain focused, and do not give in to complacency or laziness.  Use the lessons you learned with past resolutions to drive yourself to success.  There is no substitute for victory.
  8. Improvise, adapt and overcome.  You may have to change your plans along the way, but do not change your vision.  You have set a firm goal and resolution; DO NOT turn back after stubbing your toe or stumbling.  Don’t beat yourself up if you fall back, even if it seems your setbacks are insurmountable to recover from.  Remember, minor missteps are perfectly normal, and they may seem far greater than they really are.  Face it, you’ll have ups and downs.  But, you must resolve to recover from your mistakes and get back on track.

 

 _________________________________________________________________________________________________

“Success is the ability to visualize what you want to do next with your life—what you want to be, do, and have in life—and to enjoy that process of moving toward that vision, achieving it, and creating new visions.” ~ Norma Carr Ruffino

_________________________________________________________________________________________________ 

 

See Also –

Being Aware and prepared: A Motto for Success and Victory in the New Year (commandperformanceleadership.wordpress.com)

Footnotes –

[i] Making Your New Year’s Resolution Stick – Accessed 2 January 2015 – American Psychological Association – http://www.apa.org/

[ii] From a Tweet by @E_H_Carpenter, posted on 30 December 2014 at 12:15PM: https://twitter.com/E_H_Carpenter/status/549977008118448128 – Accessed 2 January 2015

[iii] From a Tweet by @Noel_DeJesus, posted on 31 December 2014 at 10:29AM: https://twitter.com/Noel_DeJesus/status/550312847071535104 – Accessed 2 January 2015

[iv] Inspired by a Tweet by @GalleryAriana, posted on 1 January 2015 at 11:36AM: https://twitter.com/GalleryAriana/status/550692050040266752 – Accessed 2 January 2015

[v] From a Tweet by @5StarLeadership (That’s ME), posted on 1 January 2015 at 11:01AM: https://twitter.com/5StarLeadership/status/550683356439269376 – Accessed 2 January 2015

[vi] Pause Now To Consider Your Success Goals for 2015 – Accessed 2 January 2015 – Office Dynamics International – http://officedynamics.com/

* Find more resources and information on setting New Year’s resolution on Google.

Photo Credits –

A Leadership Blog Reborn

Posted in Command Performance, Inaugural Posts with tags , , , , , on December 28, 2014 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

It has been far too long since I last posted to this blog.  Shame on me!  First, let me extend my sincerest apologies to those who have found this blog to be informative and inspiring.  I realize that my abrupt departure from writing has disappointed many loyal readers who have come to enjoy Command Performance Leadership.  I realize that one of the worst things a blogger can do is abandon their blog for long lengths of time, running the risk of losing readership, as well as the credibility of what the writer and the blog represents to its audience.  Although I have been mini-blogging on Twitter (@5StarLeadership), there is nothing like writing a blog that presents ideas and perspectives on topics that are compelling; themes and subjects that provoke thought and inspire discussion.

But, I’ve been a little busy, lately.  Let me offer a brief explanation, and bring you up to date on what’s been going on in my World.

In February of 2010, I found myself unexpectedly facing an abrupt transition in my career.  Laid-off from the company I had been working for, and on the brink of exiting the industry that I had spent the first twenty-years of my career, I was thrown into quite a discouraging and frightening set of circumstances for someone who had, up to that point, been settled into a comfort zone of stability virtually their entire career.  For the two years that followed, I struggled to gain footing onto a new career path.  But, In April of 2012, I entered into a hiring process for a business operations management position with an industrial butterfly valve company, serving the petro-chemical and power-generation markets.  After countless interviews, which occurred through the remainder of that year, I was hired to become the Business Manager of Quadax Valves, Inc.; a newly established start-up here in the United States.  I began my job in January of 2013 with the task of organizing the business administration and operations of this new business unit in a highly competitive and seasoned marketplace.  I have been hard at work and deeply engaged in those endeavors, building the North America operation for our parent company, which is headquartered in Forchtenberg, Germany.

In my absence from writing, the military leadership genre in the blogosphere has continued to grow, with online discussions about the synergies between military and private-sector leadership continuing to add new voices.  In a recent Tweet, The Military Leader shared a post from his blog, “7 Military Blogs You Need to Check Out,” which highlighted his ‘go to’ list of blogs that focus on the discussion of military leadership.  That blog post, and the Tweets in reply that followed, revealed that there are many in social media (blogs, Twitter, etc.) talking about military leadership and life in the military; far more than when I first started my blog a few years ago.  The Military Leader has since expanded his Blogs Page, and I am proud that my blog now appears on that list among other blogs I aspire this blog to be like.

So, I better get back to it, if I want to be considered a legitimate and credible resource in this genre.  There’s a lot of work to do to get my blog back to where it used to be, and to enter back into the forum of discussion with those who find that there is great importance in highlighting the traits and skills that our military offers, and to tell the many stories about how military leadership has its place in today’s corporate environment.  Command Performance Leadership will take its place among its peers in the blogosphere.

Of course, this is an ideal time to bring this blog back to life.  With a new year upon us, we should all be looking to kick aside old and bad habits, and to resolve to develop new behaviors and lifestyle changes that will bring greater success and victory.

For those of you that are new to my blog, WELCOME!  I am grateful that you have found it.  Please take some time to browse around this blog, paging back through recent and older posts, and using the search tool to look for topics that interest you.  For a quick-start to the blog, please read About the Blog and The Birth of a Leadership Blog to learn more about the premise and purpose of this blog.  And, I encourage you to look through the Archives of Past Posts.  I sincerely hope that what is within the pages of this blog now, and posts that I write in the future, will interest you enough for you to become a loyal reader.

Your turn to join the discussion 

What would be your “Mount Rushmore” of blogs?

Who are you following on Twitter that brings you valuable information and news?

What are you planning to change in the coming year that will translate to more victories in your life?

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What topics should this blog focus on and discuss in future posts?

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